They were standing in the driveway several years back, Jake Koch and Kevin O’Connell, talking about a variety of subjects, including the workplace.
As employees, not employers, both envisioned how they would like to see a business operate.
“We were in the driveway of Kevin’s house talking about better ways to do something, what things would look like if we ran the business,” Koch said.
It wasn’t long before they set into motion a plan to do just that. Koch, O’Connell and Jake’s father, Jeff, founded Triton Mechanical in June of 2016.
Triton Mechanical is a commercial refrigeration and HVAC service provider, a B2B enterprise specializing in heating, air conditioning and refrigeration. When they launched the firm, they were focused simply on becoming the best they could be in their field.
“We started the company with our personal savings and a dream,” Jake Koch said. “My great grandfather and great, great grandfather were in refrigeration. Ever since I was a kid, refrigeration has been a dinner table conversation.
“But we didn’t plan on becoming anything else.”
Seven year later, they’re much more than just Triton Mechanical. Koch and O’Connell now oversee three divisions of business operations:
» The original Triton Mechanical.
» Turnbull Heating & Air Conditioning, a residential specialist founded in Batavia in 1966 that they acquired a year ago.
» Koch Environmental, a specialty firm relying on Jeff Koch’s technical expertise to provide support services for environmental test chambers, ultra-low temperature equipment and medical freezers. The clients do work in optics and photonics, aerospace and defense, electronics and the automobile industry.
Jake is president of Triton Mechanical and Turnbull, Jeff is president and technical advisor for Koch Environment and O’Connell is general manager and vice president of operations at Triton.
The biggest selling point for all three companies — besides expertise — is that they are family owned and operating locally.
“There’s not a lot of local, family owned, medium-sized businesses in our industry anymore,” Jake Koch said. “Isaac (Heating & Air Conditioning), John Betlem (Heating & Cooling, Inc.), Taylor (Heating & Air Conditioning), they’ve all been sold.”
Indeed, HVAC companies have been popular acquisitions in recent years for private equity firms. Industry experts say venture capitalists look for companies with a well-known brand, experienced management and growth potential.
Koch, 41, said he has been approached several times. The answer is always “no.”
“We’re not interested in selling to someone from Dallas or wherever,” he said. “This is a family business. My parents (Jeff and Wendy) work here, my sister (Julie) works here. Kevin and his wife Jennifer work here.
“We live and work right here and when our customers call and want to speak to the owner, you get me or my father or Kevin, and we think that’s important.”
They recently moved into a new headquarters in Gates, just off Buffalo Road on Bermar Park. The new facility is a consolidation of operations in Hilton and East Rochester, providing for better efficiency. Turnbull’s primary location is still on Franklin Street in Batavia.
Their new headquarters has warehouse space, a metal shop and a training area. The overall operation has 66 employees, dedicated to what they do, Koch said.
“We’re kind of the HVAC dorks of the industry,” he said. “We live and breathe it, it’s what we do.”
They also have their limitations, though. They don’t try to do someone else’s work.
“We’re not a jack-of-all-trades business,” Koch said. “We want to be specialists in our industry. We stay in the HVAC and refrigeration vertical. We’ve noticed a lot of companies want to do everything for everyone. Well, if you’re the family doctor, you’re not going to be doing heart surgery.”
Koch said they’re not opposed to looking for further growth within those verticals, however.
“We’re young and this is exciting, it’s fun,” he said. “We don’t want to be huge but we want to have a good-sized team, help people and enjoy the benefits of that.”
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